– European police arrest 14 Algerian and Tunisian nationals located across Europe
– European officials assert region is at increased risk for potential attacks
– Europe remains strategic location for terror-related activities in the near to mid-term
On November 6, 2007, European anti-terrorism police arrested 14 suspects of Algerian and Tunisian descent in a wide-reaching anti-terror operation led by Italian authorities. The operation was ordered by Milan prosecutors and targeted the northern Italian cities of Bergamo, Varese, Reggio Emilia, and Milan. Arrests were also made in the United Kingdom, France, and Portugal. The operation led to the seizure of poisons, remote-controlled explosive detonators, and instructive manuals on how to commit so-called “guerilla” warfare.
On November 9, 2007, European Union (CU) Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, announced an increased risk of terror attacks and called on EU states to increase efforts to combat Islamist-based radicalism and further emphasized the importance of Internet surveillance.
We believe Europe continues to be an attractive location for terrorists and terrorism-related activities. To this end, despite steadily increasing efforts to enact legislation and implement anti-terrorism policing action, European-based Islamist terror networks will continue to persist and likely plan attacks in the near-term.
14 Suspects Arrested
On November 6, 2007, European police arrested 14 Algerians and Tunisians across Europe in a wider-ranging anti-terrorism operation. Milan prosecutors led the operation that was the culmination of a three-year investigation into suspected terrorist activities. Authorities targeted the Italian cities of Milan, Bergamo, Varese, and Reggio Emilia. Police also made arrests in neighboring France, the UK, and Portugal.
Police seized poisons, remote explosive detonators, and guerilla warfare instructive manuals. The suspects were in the process of establishing “Salafist jihadi” militant terror cells and were actively recruiting would-be suicide bombers. In a likely reference to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Italian anti-terrorism police, “The cells were not planning attacks in Italy but were indoctrinating and recruiting people to send to places where terrorist attacks are an everyday activity.”
The suspects are also accused of illegal immigration, falsifying identity documents, and assisting other suspected terrorists resident in Europe. Police identified the leaders of the terror group as Tunisians, Dridi Sabr and Mehdi Ben Nasr.
EU Anti-Terror Officials Assert Terror Risk Rising
As we previously reported, on September 19, 2007, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Javier Solana appointed Gilles de Kerchove the EU’s new Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (Previous Report).
On November 9, 2007, Kerchove announced, “An attack perpetrated by local or international (terror) networks remains likely.” In a likely plea to attain increased anti-terror legislation, Kerchove called on EU states to increase efforts to combat Islamist-based radicalism and further emphasized the importance of Internet surveillance.
Additionally, in November 2007, British MI5 intelligence chief, Jonathan Evans, spoke out against domestic radicalism asserting that the number of individuals resident in the UK with suspected terror links has risen to at least 2,000 in 2007, compared to 1,600 in 2006. Addressing the Society of Editors conference in Manchester, England, Evans stated, “As I speak, terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country. They are radicalizing, indoctrination, and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism.”
Europe Remains Strategic Location
As we previously reported, reviewing past efforts displayed by EU officials to combat terrorism it is evident member states prefer to take their own initiatives and appear to prefer bilateral agreements to EU-wide cooperation. Specifically, following the July 7, 2005 London terror attacks the role of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator appeared virtually absent in public discourse (Previous Report).
Specifically, as EU leaders continue to oppose the passage of a EU Constitution, EU officials remain resistant to approve expansive EU-wide initiatives and roles. Further, it is unlikely a significant change in attitude and coordination will occur as a result of a newly installed EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator. As an advocate, Kerchove is not able to have an operational impact on individual countries.
Additionally, we believe Europe continues to be an attractive location for terrorists and terrorism-related activities. To this end, we believe despite increasing efforts to enact legislation and implement anti-terrorism police action, European-based Islamist terror networks will continue to flourish in the near-term.